When Paul Simon began writing what would become the 1968 hit "Mrs. Robinson," he intended it to be a song about times past. But then he received a call from movie producer Mike Nichols, who asked Simon for some songs for his 1967 film The Graduate. Simon changed the title and the lyrics to fit the film's antagonist, and the song and the movie became two of the biggest hits of the 1960s.Lyrics
Paul Simon later explained that he meant to honor DiMaggio as "an American hero" at a time when "genuine heroes were in short supply."
Paul Simon may have meant to honor DiMaggio, but he also selected the "Yankee Clipper" because of the number of syllables in his name. Simon's own baseball hero was Mickey Mantle, but this would have forced some awkward phrasing—"where have you gone, Mickey Ma-antle?" Nope, doesn't work.
Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes.Technique
Put it in your pantry with your cupcakes.
It's a little secret, just the Robinsons' affair.
Most of all you've got to hide it from the kids.
It's not completely clear to which secret the song refers. It could be the fact that Mrs. Robinson is an alcoholic and stuck in an empty marriage. Or maybe the lines refer to the premarital conception of her daughter. Perhaps drugs as well as alcohol are stashed in her pantry. Or maybe she's hiding the birth control pills that allow her to run cougar-wild.
Or perhaps the lines are meant to refer to all of these; alongside Mrs. Robinson's Betty Crocker cupcakes sit all of the secrets and dysfunctions of her generation's world. If Simon intended this more sweeping condemnation, he also made clear that the solution to all of this decadence lay in the past, not the future.
Musically, "Mrs. Robinson" offers a nice example of how to add a mysterious edge to a campfire song. The chorus ("and here's to you, Mrs. Robinson") is built on standard major chords and strummed on acoustic guitars. The lyrics, at least during the first three trips through the chorus, are positive and filled with cliché phrasing: "and here's to you… Jesus loves you… God bless you… Heaven holds a place for those who pray." Simon even throws in the "woo, woo, woo"s and "hey, hey, hey"s that make for a nice sing-along.Influences
With careers lasting more than a half-century, Simon and Garfunkel's influences have evolved over time. They have identified the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, the Hilltoppers, the Four Aces, the Crewcuts, Little Richard, and Fats Domino as among their earliest influences.Bonus:
Simon began writing this as "Mrs. Roosevelt." He changed it to "Mrs. Robinson" for the movie. He may have written this about Eleanor Roosevelt. Some of the lyrics support this such as "We'd like to help you learn to help yourself. Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes" and "Going to the candidates debate. Laugh about it, shout about it. When you've got to choose. Every way you look at it, you lose." Roosevelt was a female rights and black rights activist, always helping everyone but herself during the Great Depression. A lot of the time she seemed to have been running the country as much as FDR, but never would have actually won the presidency because she was female.All Music Guide's write-up by Bill Janovitz.
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